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Re: "NASA Uses Python"

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From:
Shlomi Fish
Date:
April 5, 2008 09:12
Subject:
Re: "NASA Uses Python"
Message ID:
200804051911.40808.shlomif@iglu.org.il
Hi all!

First of all let me apologise if you think my letter was phrased in a too 
negatively or with a negative criticism. Read below.

On Saturday 05 April 2008, Jan Dubois wrote:
> On Sat, 05 Apr 2008, Shlomi Fish wrote:
> > If you go to http://www.python.org/ you'll see at the top-right corner
> > a picture of an astronaut with the title "NASA uses Python...". Now,
> > to the layman or beginner it might sound more impressive, but let's
> > get our facts straight.
>
> If you look closely you can see that they are just pointing to one of the
> many Python success stories on their site:
>
>   http://www.python.org/about/success/
>

Great, the picture has a link. I couldn't tell it had one nor could I think of 
it. Most people won't follow the link. They'll just think "Wow! NASA uses 
Python! Python must be the cat whiskers". Or if they know better (like me) 
they'll think "Yes, they're using Python. So what? They're using a lot of 
things too.".

I know too much about UI design and web usability (and a bit about marketing) 
to know the layout of this particular element is misleading.

Regarding success stories - yes, it's good that the Python site has them. And 
yes, it's bad that the prominent Perl sites do not have more testimonials. 
I've tried to remedy the situation by including a "Testimonials" page at:

http://perl-begin.org/

But it's my site, and not with too high a page rank, and I don't have control 
or access to the other Perl sites. I'm not trying to complain that I should 
have (again...), but I think the front page of the site should be designed 
with a marketing persepctive in mind. See:

http://www.sparkthis.com/2006/02/slides_the_hack.html

> > However, I'd still like to see this removed from the Python homepage,
> > because it's a statement that is misleading to the uninitiated and
> > lacks integrity. I thought about consulting you people on my own turf
> > about the best course of action from here.
>
> I completely disagree with you there. I think this is legitimate
> information on their page, even backed up with a full write-up of the
> application. Please leave them alone!

Fine, would you be happy if I added a "NASA uses Perl" box to 
http://perl-begin.org/ with the same or a similar picture? I'd rather not 
have this escalate into an arms' race. I pointed out why it was misleading, 
and you did not address any of my main points or evidence to the contrary. 

Perhaps I should buy http://www.fortran.org/ and say "NASA Uses Fortran" with 
a picture of an Astronaut there, so the uneducated will think that Fortran is 
used by leet hackers.[1]

[1] - Thinking about it, it would make a great parody site, but not of 
http://www.python.org/ in particular.

Note that I don't mind having a NASA success story as a success story for 
Python. That's perfectly OK. I'll also be happy to publish NASA successs 
stories of Perl on http://perl-begin.org/ . But I'm not going to make it 
stand out like http://www.python.org/ does because it is not unique to Perl 
(or Python) and because I may eventually make a fool of myself. It's 
misleading, and in a bad way.

>
> If you want to advocate Perl, then you should try to get more Perl
> success stories published, not try to suppress other languages
> successes. 

See above.

> Here is a similar list of stories for Perl: 
>
>   http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/perl/news/success_stories.html
>
> But look at how many stories were published each year:
>
>   1999 -  4
>   2000 - 11
>   2001 -  4
>   2002 -  9
>   2003 -  4
>   2004 -  2
>   2005 - none
>   2006 - none
>   2007 - none
>   2008 -  ?
>
> This is the real problem, not that Python can point to a NASA project
> that uses Python.
>

I agree it's a problem. I don't think we ran out of Perl success stories, I 
just think that the one responsible for them has become too busy or 
distracted. I volunteer to renew the effort or at least serve as a mailbox 
for new success stories. (Possibly under a different location). I believe I 
tried emailing the list requesting such success stories/testimonials, but I 
received no reply. I also tried asking on IRC, but so far did not get a reply 
either. 

I admit I haven't tried too hard so far, having been distracted with other 
stuff. I could try use.perl.org/perl-buzz/perl.com/perlmonks.org or different 
high profile Perl sites.

I should note that I'm not such a good copy-editor, and may miss some 
spelling/grammatical/syntactical/phrasing/etc. errors. But I can still 
concentrate the effort.

That put aside, while it is important that we get and organise new 
testimonials for Perl, I still think the "NASA Uses Python" point I made 
smells bad, and that the Python people should remedy it. So this thread 
should go into two directions:

1. How can we better solicit more Perl success stories?

1.a) If you have a success story or a different testimonial - send it to me.

2. What should we do, if we should do anything about the "NASA Uses Python" 
box in http://www.python.org/ ?

> Cheers,
> -Jan
>
> PS: Yes, I don't know the years the individual Python stories were
> published, so they may actually be seeing the same trend. But that
> is besides the point I was trying to make.

True. 

Regards,

	Shlomi Fish

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Shlomi Fish      shlomif@iglu.org.il
Homepage:        http://www.shlomifish.org/

I'm not an actor - I just play one on T.V.

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